September 20, 2012 |

Hospitality Service

By Jeremy White

If your customers rated you right now on your service and overall hospitality, how would you do?

If you are absolutely, positively certain they would say they always feel welcome and appreciated inside your pizzeria, congratulations. Go on to reading the rest of the magazine and skip this column. For the rest of you, it’s time to rethink things a bit.

To optimize your chances at success, you need a lot of things: a good location, good food, a solid marketing plan, etc. All too often, unfortunately, customer service gets left out of the mix. As a pizzeria operator, it’s important to remember you are not just in the restaurant industry — you are in the hospitality industry?

What does that mean? It means setting high service standards and sticking to them without fail. It means greeting every customer that walks through the door with a smile and a warm hello. It means addressing them promptly and courteously at all times, even when your delivery drivers are swamped and your kitchen staff can’t keep up with the onslaught of Friday night orders.

Let’s face it: your customers do not (nor will they ever) care two prep workers did not show up on time or one of your drivers has a flat tire. They care about getting their food hot and being treated with respect. It’s your job to do that no matter how badly your day has gone.

I was recently dining out with my wife when we overheard a woman sitting behind us complain that her food was undercooked and cold. The server promptly returned it to the kitchen. Minutes later, we overheard the same complaint. This time the kitchen manager was at the table, and I shook my head in disbelief as I overheard him making excuses. Never once did he apologize or offer to comp the meal. Instead, the couple behind us was told “Wow, that’s really unusual. Carlos usually overcooks things. Undercooking isn’t really a problem with him.”

I was flabbergasted. A paying customer had complained twice, and the issue still was not resolved. Not only was her food still cold, but now she had been alienated. I wasn’t at all surprised when I heard her husband say “We’ll never be back here again.” Truth be told, the same thing was going through my mind. I wonder how many other customers in adjoining booths were thinking the same thing?

Make sure your customers never have to say “I won’t be back here again.” Most people are willing to overlook minor deficiencies if they are treated with respect, but you won’t be able to give your pizza away if you’re rude to those who support you.

In short, forget about being a restaurateur and concentrate on becoming part of the hospitality industry. Your customers are too valuable to let go. Treat them like gold and watch them return time and again.